I have a two month old, so I have some time yet. I am curious what would be a suitable alternative to cows milk. My husband and I both have digestive (bedroom smells like a feed-lot) issues with both gluten and dairy. I want to allow her to self wean at some point between 12 months and kindergarten, but don't want to give her cows milk at that point.
I would consider water only for a time, especially if you and your partner both have dairy issues. The issues I see coming up with milks are allergies and intolerance, digestive issues, dental issues from the sugars, filling up on drinks instead of whole foods and others. It's a good thing you looking ahead so you've got some time to check out the options.
Depending on the accessibility in your area, goat's milk can be a wonderful alternative. Since it's more easily digestible and not harder to produce, I can't believe that it's not commercially available, but I've found that once I've become more aware of it, it's not that difficult to find in my area.
Personally, I would stay away from soy; and also from rice just based on the recent arsenic research. Another alternative is hemp (which I can find easily enough in the actual grocery store, but should definitely be available in natural food stores), or almond milk, if there are no known nut allergies in the family.
My two year old has a dairy sensitivity. She drinks a lot of water and some juice, but, when the rest of the family is drinking cow's milk and she wants milk, she drinks coconut milk. I also tried almond milk, but she wasn't keen on it. Coconut milk has been a hit, and I've found that I prefer it over cow's milk on cereal.
Happy transplanted resident of the "not so deep" South. Married to a great man for 9 years and counting. Mom to two wonderful gifts from God: DS (8) always moving, atypically thinking, ballet dancing boy and long-awaited DD (2) cuddly, curious, fearless, book loving girl.
My kids wean to....nothing. I plan on nursing them until at least 2 with any extra as a bonus. I pump at work until they self-wean. They don't ever drink anything other than bm.
We do use cow's milk for cooking/cereal and if they had a dairy issue I'd choose coconut, hemp, almond, or soy as the most nutritious options.
That said, many who cannot tolerate pasteurized milk do just fine with raw. That's what we drink, but we drink it because we like it, not because its replacing my milk for my kids.
My 18 month old niece is allergic to soy and dairy. My sister started out giving her rice milk. Lately she has been giving her half rice milk and half goats milk mixed together.
I also agree with blessed. I don't think milk or replacement milk is a nutritional necessity when practicing long term nursing. My dd is 2 ( almost 27 months) and still nursing strong. She loves to drink glasses of kefir (naturally 98% lactose free) and unsweetened coconut or almond milk or 7 grain vanilla milk as a beverage but not as a replacement to bm. She started asking for these drinks because we occasionally had them in the house mostly to use in cooking and she was curious. It turns out she loves them but I rarely offer them, she just asks for them. She also LOVES broth and will drink tons of bone broth which is probably a much more nutrient rich option than any non-dairy "milk". Dd happens to really crave drinks other than water otherwise I would probably just offer water and herbal tea.
My wife has a milk allergy and we use both oat milk and almond milk, depending on the purpose. Neither one is great for drinking straight (though the oat milk is much better) but either can be used in recipes or for hot cocoa, etc. The oat milk is creamier and is more like regular milk. She likes to put it on cereal. I would keep almond milk around even without the allergy because it's a great way to thin out smoothies without boosting the calorie content too much (it only has 30 calories to a cup, compared to 130 for oat milk and 150 for regular milk). Oat milk is the only substitute milk you can make at home.
We tried all the substitute milks out there when my wife developed her allergy a few years ago, and those are the only two either one of us can tolerate on a regular basis. Hemp, soy, and sunflower have too strong a taste to use in most recipes. I can't stand the taste of coconut milk normally, but it makes a darn good ice cream substitute.
Mother to one dd .